Monday, January 31, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #16 Seth Rosin

#16 Seth Rosin, RHP. BD: 11/2/1988. 6'5", 235 lbs. B-R, T- R.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): 1-1, 4.91, 11 IP, 1 BB, 9 K's, GO/AO= 1.67. College(Minnesota): 9-4, 4.72, 103 IP, 12 BB, 93 K's.

You may have noticed a paucity of highly ranked pitching prospects on this list. After years of having pitchers dominate Giants top prospect lists, it seems strange the the lions's share of top prospects in the system are position players. I am optimistic that this imbalance will be corrected in the near future and a big part of that is because of pitchers in the system like Seth Rosin. He is at the top of a fairly long list of pitching prospects in the system with great arms and tremendous upside who have a great chance to break out within the next two years.

Seth Rosin is a big kid who was the Friday starter for Minnesota, a well respected D1 college program. Although his ERA was not spectacular, his K and BB stats reflected a much better performance. His season culminated in a dominating performance against none other than Cal State Fullerton in CSF's home stadium in the college playoffs. In my own pre-draft analysis, I had Rosin right up there with other college starters like Deck McGuire, Asher Wojciekowski, and others who went much higher in the draft, so I think the Giants got tremendous value when they were able to grab him in the 4'th round.

Rosin is listed at 6'5", but other reports have him at 6'6" and even 6'7". John Klima has extensive scouting reports, writeups, video and a Q/A on Seth on his website If you go to the site, just type Seth's name into the search function and you will find a treasure trove on information. Make sure to look at he scouting video. Trust me, it's awesome!

Seth throws two fastballs, a 4 seamer that goes 94-96 MPH and a 2 seamer that goes 92-94. He has 80 command of both pitches on both corners of the plate. His best secondary pitch is a changeup that goes in the mid 70's, so there is as nice differential there. He throws it with the same arm angle and motion so he hides it well too. He had a rudimentary curveball in college that he seldom used, but the Giants had him throwing a hard slider in the NWL. If he can put those fastballs in the inside corner in the pros, he will leave a lot of wood splinters scattered around the ball fields he plays on!

He got off to a nice start in Salem-Keizer until giving up 4 runs in his last outing that blew up his ERA. The 9/1 K/BB is right in line with his college performance. The Giants shut him down after that due to fatigue from the long college season that extended into the college playoffs. His arm is reportedly healthy and he's spending his offseason working on conditioning.

I think his likely destination is San Jose. I can hardly wait to see him pitch! Last year, BA ran an article saying that fastball command is the single best predictor of future success for pitching prospects. If that is true, Seth might just be the best pitching prospect in the entire 2010 draft! He should be a fast mover in the system with the potential for a huge breakout and long term dominance. He's my #1 sleeper/breakout prospect from a system that is full of sleepers and breakout potential.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #15 Nick Noonan

#15 Nick Noonan, 2B. BD: 5/4/1989. 6'0, 180 lbs. B-L, T-R.

AA: .237/.280/.304.

Nick Noonan struggled at the plate in Richmond and battled hamstring problems most of the season. In the process, Charlie Culberson, who moved to 2B just this last season has likely moved ahead of him on the Giants 2B prospects depth chart. It's pretty tough to find any positives from the season for Nick. So, why am I still ranking him in the top 20? I still think he's more of a natural second baseman than Culberson and he is still young enough that repeating the level won't put him behind in development. One alarming trend is his BA from his first season as a pro:

2007 AZL .316.
2008 Low A .279.
2009 High A .259
2010 AA .237

I'm guessing the Giants jump Culberson to Fresno and ask Nick to repeat AA, but then I am so bad at guessing where the Giants assign their prospects that is a fairly safe bet to go 180 degrees opposite of what I think. 2011 is a critical year for him as he really needs to start showing the talent that made him the #32 overall pick in the 2008 draft and reverse the downward trend in is BA.

Hot Stove Update: Agent Ned Adds HR's and Outs

I generally believe that since you can't control what other people do, it's generally best to focus on what you can do, or not do. This philosophy usually carries over to the sports teams I root for. If they take care of their own business they won't have to worry about what their rivals are up to. Of course, there are exceptions. A perfect example is last season when Brian Sabean worried about what the Padres might do with Cody Ross and placed a pre-emptive waiver claim. We all know how that turned out!

Another exception is pretty much everything the Dodgers do. Now, I can finally say that nothing beats the feeling of winning the World Series, but for a large portion of my life as a Giants fan, I have to admit that I was sometimes torn between which I enjoyed more, the Giants winning or the Dodgers losing. Having finally settled that and with the knowledge that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, I admit I have taken a peek or two at what the Dodgers are up to this offseason.

Ned Colletti, AKA Agent Ned, has done an admirable job of shoring up the back end of his starting pitching rotation by retaining Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, and by adding Jon Garland. Some analysts have commented that the Dodgers now have the deepest rotation in baseball. I agree, it's an impressive bunch. Kuroda is a scary pitcher when he's healthy, but the other 3 are probably closer to Barry Zito than Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner, if that good.

Last season, the Dodgers offense pretty much froze over after Manny went out with an injury. They had a severe lack of power and finished with just 120 HR's, the 3'rd lowest total in baseball. Agent Ned set out to correct that deficit, and did a good job. He retained Rod Barajas who will probably hit about 16 more HR's than Russell Martin. He added Juan Uribe who can be expected to add about 20 HR's over Ryan Theriot or Jamey Carroll, and retained Jon Gibbons and added Marcus Thames who will likely combine for about 20 more HR's than Scotty Pods. All in all, I'm estimating that the Dodgers are likely to hit about 45 more HR's than last season(Manny hit 8 and Gibbons hit 5 in limited PT). They are also likely to hit about 60 more HR's than the likely alternatives at C, 2B and LF. That is not an insignificant number. Each HR creates 1 run which adds 45 runs from last year and 60 runs over the alternative right off the bat.

As I have commented a few times, the cost of adding these HR's is that the Dodgers have also added a lot of outs to their lineup by decreasing their OBP. Although it is commonly expressed that way, a lower OBP does not really add outs to a lineup. Every game played in regulation innings has 24-27 outs depending on the outcome. You can't add or subtract from that range. What a lower OBP does is take away successful plate appearances. Just for fun, I decided to try and quantify how many runs these lost Successful Plate Appearances will cost the Hated Ones.

First we need to agree on what we are comparing here. After considering several scenarios, I finally settled on the career OBP's of the likely players at the 3 positions in question vs the most likely alternatives:

At catcher, the Dodgers lose Russell Martin and his career .362 OBP to Rod Barajas and his .284(that's right, .284) OBP.

At 2B, the Dodgers could have kept Ryan Theriot and his .348 career OBP(although he only had .323 last year) or they could have gone with Jamey Carroll and his career .355 career OBP. Instead they went with Juan Uribe's 22 or so HR's along with his .300 career OBP.

In LF, the Dodgers look like they are going with a straight L-R platoon of Jon Gibbons and his .314 career OBP plus Marcus Thames and his .311 career OBP instead of Scotty Pods and his .340 career OBP.

The average career OBP of the new Dodgers at the 3 positions of C, 2B and LF is .299. We'll round it to .300. The average career OBP of the 3 players who were the likely alternatives is .351. We'll round it to .350.

The formula for calculating the number of Successful Plate Appearances (SPA) for a given OBP is SPA/(Outs+SPA)=OBP. I estimated the number of outs over a 160 game schedule for the two sets of 3 players to be 160X9=1440.

For the Dodgers likely players in 2011, SPA/1440+SPA= .300. SPA= 1440(.300) + (.300)SPA. SPA-(.300)SPA= 432. (.700)SPA=432. SPA=432/.700= 617.

For the likely alternatives, SPA/1440 + SPA = .350. SPA= 1440(.350) + SPA(.350). SPA-(.350)SPA= (.350)1440. (.650)SPA=504. SPA= 504/.650= 775.

So, the Dodgers projected 2011 lineup can be projected to get 775-617= 158 fewer Successful Plate Appearances than a projected lineup with the 3 likely alternative players for LF, 2B and C.

That doesn't quite tell the whole story though. If you are going to give Agent Ned credit for adding about 60 runs from the added HR's he will get out of these 3 positions, you also have to subtract the HR's from the SPA's when calculating the runs lost to due to the lower OBP.

On average, 1 non-HR SPA produces 0.3 runs. If 60 more of the SPA's are due to HR's, you subtract that from 617 and get 557.

775-557= 218 fewer non-HR SPA's. 218 X 0.3=65.

In trading OBP for HR's, Ned ended up very close to even-steven in terms of run production. Since these are rough calculations, 60 extra runs from HR's is approximately equal to 65 Runs lost due to fewer Successful Plate Appearances.

Conclusion: The Dodgers offense is likely to be about as productive as it was over the second half of last season, which is quite bad. The pitching depth that Ned acquired is unlikely to be good enough to overcome that lack of run production.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #14 Rafael Rodriguez

#14 Rafael Rodriguez, OF. BD: 7/13/1992. 6'5", 198 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Short Season(Salem-Keizer): .163/.250/.209 in 43 AB's. AZL: .301/.323/.398, 2 HR's, 4 SB in 123 AB.

RafRod, as he has become known in the blogosphere of Giants fandom, left those fans with mixed emotions after his second professional season. He started the season by staying back in extended spring training then going to Salem-Keizer, a higher level than the Rookie Arizona League where he played last season. Unfortunately, Raf struggled against the older players, strained his back and finished the season back in Arizona after a short DL stint. He again hit .300 along with 2 HR's which is 2 more than he hit in 2009.

So where does this leave RafRod in the development game? Well first of all, remember that he played half the season at age 17, so he would have been considered on the young side for a HS draftee had he come out of an American HS last year. Given that, the Arizona League was an age appropriate level for him and he did hit .300 there, including .342 over his last 10 games. I'm still not worried about the power as it will eventually come as he matures. At this point in his career, the most important tool is the hit for average, and he has done that at the age appropriate levels. Speaking of age appropriate, the short season leagues are generally populated with college draftees who are 21-23 yo. Some of RafRod's teammates there were even older! Low A ball has some college draftees in their first full season after short season, but it also has quite a few HS draftees playing their first full season. I wonder if Low A is a more age appropriate level for a 17 yo kid trying to move up from the AZL?

I would think we would see RafRod in Augusta in 2011, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants keep him back in camp again and send him back to S-K. I think he still has a very high ceiling, but is obviously a long term project who may not be ready for the majors until 2015 or even 2016.

Fantasy Focus: Ranking Andres Torres

As I'm starting to put together my draft board for the 2011 version my Savvy Vets fantasy baseball team, I've been looking at some mock draft and some early fantasy magazine player rankings. I try to not let my real life allegiances affect my judgement when it comes to my fantasy draft, but I can't help but notice where some of the Giants players are ranked on other draft boards. One really interesting name that keeps jumping out at me is Andres Torres. My Yahoo Sports fantasy mag has him ranked at #178 on their overall draft board and #55 among OF's.

Even if you look at Andres Torres' overall numbers from last season, he performed better than those rankings. Now, I understand that a big portion of his 6 WAR campaign was due to defense, which doesn't help you in fantasy baseball, but did you know that Andres was one of only 9 players in all of MLB with at least 15 HR's and 25 SB's last year? Here's something else to consider when looking at Andres' performance last year. He essentially missed the first and last months of the season! He started out the season on the bench and only got into 15 games in April. He also missed most of September with an appendectomy and was not feeling 100% in the games he did play. After a poor NLDS, the monster from May, June, July and August returned for the NLCS and WS. Monster, you say? In those 4 months, when Andres was fully healthy and in the starting lineup daily, he put up a line of .279/.363/.449 with 38 2B, 6 3B, 14 HR, and 22 SB. Had he been starting from day 1 and healthy in September, he projected to some pretty stupendous numbers. How do 21 HR's and 33 SB's grab your fantasy? How about 111 runs and 85 RBI's? Just for comparison, Jayson Werth had 106 runs, 85 RBI's, 27 HR's, but only 13 SB in 2010. Yahoo Sports has Werth ranked #42 overall and the #14 OF.

Now, I understand that these rankings are not based on last year's performances, but on how fantasy baseball managers think a player is likely to perform in the upcoming year. Jayson Werth's 3 consecutive seasons of solid production count for more than a 1 year breakout for a player like Andres Torres. If you are looking for clues that maybe Torres' season was not a fluke though, I'll throw out 2 points to consider: 1. Torres' line as a reserve in 2009 was .270/.343/.533 with a projection of 24 HR and 24 SB over a full season of PA's. 2. His performance in the NLCS and WS, after fully recovering from his appendectomy was right in line with his performance over the middle 4 months of the regular season.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not advocating for drafting Andres Torres ahead of Jayson Werth in your fantasy draft, but if you are looking for a guy who is likely to outperform his ADP in the later rounds of your draft, you could do a whole lot worse than Andres Torres.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #13 Tommy Joseph

#13 Tommy Joseph, C. BD: 7/16/1991. 6'1", 210 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: .236/.290/.401, 16 HR's.

Tommy Joseph has "light tower power." He reportedly has a pretty good arm too, but he may be a 1 tool player. That 1 tool, though, is the power. He will go as far as that power takes him. Over the last several seasons, power numbers in MLB have been in sharp decline. That makes Tommy's 1 tool relatively more valuable than it would have been 5 years ago and a lot more valuable than it would have been 10 years ago. So, he certainly has something going for him.

Joseph certainly had his ups and downs last season, but 16 HR's is a pretty impressive feat for Augusta and the Sally League, especially with it being his first professional experience.

There are several concerns: 1. Contact- he struck out more than 25% of his AB's. In one video, he appears to be taking the exact same swing on every pitch, no matter where the pitch is located. 2. Athleticism- Although he has a good arm, his other skills behind the plate are lacking. He has thick, heavy legs which probably limits his options on the field to catcher and 1B if that. In one video that shows him running down the line to 1B, he looks about as fast a Bengie Molina.

On the other hand, you don't need to be fast to trot around the bases, and Tommy should be doing a lot of that in the future.

The Giants seem to be set on keeping him at catcher for now. I think that is the right move. If he can become adequate behind the plate, that is where he will have the most value. Most likely destination in 2011 is San Jose. Looking forward to getting a chance to see him in person.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #12 Conor Gillaspie

#12 Conor Gillaspie, 3B. BD: 7/18/1987. 6'1", 195 lbs. B-L, T-R.

AA: .287/.335/.420, 25 2B, 8 3B, 8 HR. AFL: .306/.350/.597, 5 HR in 72 AB's.

After hitting .419 in his junior season at Wichita State then signed to a major league contract after being drafted in the second round by the Giants in the 2008 draft, Conor Gillaspie hasn't quite lived up to expectations that he would immediately hit in the mid .300's in the minors and fast-track his way to a Bill Mueller-like career as a 3B for the Giants. Although his numbers for AA RIchmond last season don't jump out at you, they are quite good considering the league/park factors. After a slow start in the AFL, he went on a HR tear hitting 5 in his last 10 games to go with a .459 BA, so he's coming into 2011 on a high note.

Time is running out for the Giants and Conor Gillaspie. Because of the MLB contract he signed after the draft, the Giants can option him to the minors 3 times and they've already done so twice. Conor has to make the 25 man active roster to stay by the end of spring training 2012 or be exposed to waivers where some other team could claim him. He should be assigned to AAA Fresno for 2011, a much more hitter friendly environment than AA Richmond. He could have a massive spike in his numbers, but that is probably what it will take for him to beat the deadline imposed by his contract. His future with the Giants may very well be tied directly to how Pablo Sandoval performs this year.

Just a thought. Conor has always been a contact/line drive hitter. I wonder what would happen if he tried some of the same adjustments that jump-started Brandon Belt's career? Maybe that's what he was working on in the AFL and explains his HR spike at the end?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #11 Jarrett Parker

#11 Jarrett Parker, OF. BD: 1/1/1989. 6'3", 190 lbs. B-L, T-L.

College(Virginia): .333/.428/.593, 17 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 12 SB, 2 CS.

Remember the early days of this blog when several of us were saying we wanted the Giants to draft one of several 5 tool CF's out of college in the 2010 draft? Leon Landry, Tyler Holt and Jarrett Parker were the names most often mentioned. Parker had burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2009 putting up a .355/.451/.664 line with 16 HR's and 20 SB's. To ask him to top that, or even repeat it might have been a bit unrealistic. Parker got off to a slow start, but finished pretty well and didn't have a bad season. It was just disappointing in comparison to his breakout in 2009.

The Giants stayed true to their recent form scooping up formerly highly touted prospects whose stock dropped in their draft season, taking Parker in round 2. The pick was strangely greeted with a yawn from a lot of watchers and he seemed to completely fall off the radar screen when he didn't sign in time to play pro ball in 2010. I really like the pick and think the Giants may have gotten themselves a real gem here. Parker has hit for average and power and has shown excellent plate discipline. Even though his batting line looked worse in 2010 than 2009, he dropped his K rate from 80 in 265 AB to 56 in 243 AB. He has lots of room to fill out his frame, so projects to even more power in the future.

It will be interesting to see where he is assigned in 2010. Will the Giants put him in RF alongside Gary Brown in CF in San Jose, or do they put him in CF in Augusta while keeping Chuckie Jones back in camp and then Salem-Keizer?

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #10 Charlie Culberson

#10 Charlie Culberson, 2B. BD: 4/10/1989. 6'1", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R.

A+: .290/.340/.457, 16 HR, 25 SB, 7 CS. AFL: .366/.394/.591, 11 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR in 93 AB.

Charlie Culberson was the the 5'th HS player the Giants drafted out of 6 first and supplemental first round picks in the 2007 draft. He was widely considered an overdraft, but the Giants really liked him. He started out at shortstop and struggled his first pro season in Augusta. He moved to 3B in 2009 still in Augusta and still struggled. By this time a lot of prospect watchers were ready to all but write him off. The Giants had other ideas and moved him once again, this time to 2B, while promoting him to San Jose. He responded with somewhat of a breakout season hitting for average and power with a dash of speed to boot. He was much better defensively at 2B where his arm strength allowed him to excel at relay throws on DP's. He backed his San Jose performance by tearing up the Arizona Fall League.

Charlie is a bit tall for a 2B and still has a lanky appearance with room to fill out his frame by another 10-15 lbs. He already has good power for a middle IF. As he matures, I envision a Jeff Kent type power hitting 2B with adequate fielding skills. The big question is whether he can maintain an adequate BA in the majors.

Where he plays in 2011 is an interesting question. He's clearly moved ahead of Nick Noonan on the Giants 2B prospect depth chart leading me to think Noonan might stay another season in AA while Charlie jumps over him to Fresno. I have mixed feelings about that. I like the challenge that the EL provides Giants hitting prospects. It helps toughen up the ones who survive it, but is so tough it can destroy confidence too. Fresno, on the other hand, grossly inflates offensive numbers possibly leading to bad habits at the plate. Lately, the Giants best hitting prospects, Sandoval, Posey and Brandon Belt have either skipped AA altogether or only spent about a month there, so maybe it doesn't really make any difference where they play. They are either going to be MLB hitters or they aren't.

With Freddy Sanchez' contract up at the end of this season, and the increasing cost of keeping their homegrown pitchers, I would think Charlie has a chance to claim the Giants 2B position in 2012 with strong 2011 campaign.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Down on the Farm: BA Giants Top 10 Prospects

Andy Baggerly finally got the chance to put his Giants top 10 prospects up on I thought his list was surprisingly similar to mine:

1. Brandon Belt
2. Zack Wheeler
3. Gary Brown
4. Francisco Peguero
5. Ehire Adrianza
6. Brandon Crawford
7. Thomas Neal
8. Charlie Culberson
9. Eric Surkamp
10.Tommy Joseph.

Two names on his list not on mine: Surkamp and Joseph.

Two names on my list not on his: Chuckie Jones and Dan Runzler(BA changed their criteria for relief pitchers this year. Runzler would have qualified in previous years.).

I believe in Thomas Neal's bat and think his glove and arm are underrated. I have him at #3.

Brown and Peguero are back-to-back in both lists with Brown in front due to being more likely to be the CF.

Adrianza and Crawford are on both lists with Adrianza leading for similar reasons.

I haven't seen the Top 30, but from the chat, it sounds like a lot of the players are in similar positions in both lists.

Sounds like Surkamp is expected to be 100% by spring training which is great news. If he is truly fully healthy, he should be ranked higher than #39 on my list, although Baggs and the Giants organization seem higher on him than I am. Baggs did admit that Surkamp's ceiling is probably as a #4 starter.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #9 Brandon Crawford

#9 Brandon Crawford, SS. BD: 1/2/1987. 6'2", 210 lbs. B-L, T-R.

AA: .241/.337/.375, 7 HR, 4 SB in 291 AB's. A+: .167/.250/.222.

Just for a review, Brandon Crawford was, once upon a time, projected as a first round draft pick after a great sophomore season at UCLA. A less than stellar Cape Cod League performance the following summer and a disappointing junior season dropped his stock. The Giants scooped him up in the 4'th round of the 2008 draft. He tore up the Cal League in the first half of 2009 earning a quick promotion to AA, but has struggled since. He lost the last 6 weeks of his AA season to a broken hand. He came back for the last week of the Cal League season a bit rusty, but heated up in the playoffs. I saw him hit a grand slam HR in Rancho Cucamonga during the championship series. Adrianza was playing a great defensive shortstop for SJ, so Crawford played mostly 3B.

Crawford has a bit of a stocky build for a shortstop, but moves around the field really well and has a nice arm. I still remember an off-balance throw he made from down in the LF bullpen to almost nail a runner coming home in a game I saw up in High Desert in 2009. He also has potential to be a hitter with above average power for the SS position. The big question has been his inconsistency at the plate which didn't get answered last season. I expect him to be the starting SS at Fresno with a chance to move up to SF if Tejada were to get injured or have to move to 3B.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Random Reactions

1. The Blue Jays already flipped Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco in what is a terrible deal for the Rangers. If they are serious about giving Neftali Feliz a shot at starting, they are left with Alexi Ogando as the only potential closer on the team with pretty much no setup man to speak of. At best, Napoli might get 200+ AB's as the RH half of a platoon at 1B/DH because he ain't gonna be catching many games.

2. Marc Kroons is an interesting signing by the Giants. He's a 38 yo hard throwing closer who's played the last 5 years in Japan and broke the Japanese League record for velocity 3 years ago with a pitch that hit 100.6 MPH(161 km/hr). He was given a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Man, Brian Sabean has developed a taste for relievers who throw 100 MPH, huh? He'll compete with Guillermo Mota and Jeff Suppan for the final spot on the pitching staff.

3. I hope everybody was as moved by the picture of Willie Mays sitting with the Commissioner's Trophy while it was on display in NYC. Loved the caption about too much awesome in one room!

4. Brandon Belt was #26 on's top 50 prospect list. There were a lot of good names on the list, but I think Belt should have be just a bit higher and that Zack Wheeler should have made the list.

5. There's a link up on and on Splashing Pumpkins to an article about Voros McCracken, they dude who discovered the whole world of DIPS and BABIP. I believe that BABIP is a grossly misused stat by many internet commentators who don't really understand it, and there has been a lot of refinement to it since Voros first came up with it, but it's still a great story. Understanding that history as well as DIPS and BABIP are essential to understanding what's going on in the game today, from an understanding of hitting and pitching to a greatly enhanced understanding of the role of defense in baseball. This is a must-read article for any serious baseball fan!

6. comes out with their Top 10 Giants prospects tomorrow. We'll see how Baggs ranks them and hopefully get some insight into how the Giants see their own prospects as Baggs is the best source for that info. Time to run out to Barnes and Noble to see if they have the Prospect Handbook in or else order it directly from BA.

7. Chris Ray signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners. IMO, Ray should have been offered arbitration instead of Ramon Ramirez, but it was obvious Bochy liked Ramirez better and he did do a fine job down the stretch. I just don't have a lot of faith in Ramirez going forward and think Ray has better stuff.

8. MLBTR had a poll today on who readers thought was the best remaining Starting Pitcher on the FA market. My choice was Rodrigo Lopez who pitched for the D'Backs last year and was a very nice innings eater for them.

9. Todd Wellemeyer signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Cubs. I didn't know there was such a thing as a non-guaranteeed deal in baseball. Since there obviously is, I wonder why we don't see more of them.

10. Armando Galarraga, of near perfect game fame, was traded to the D'Backs. I'm not too worried about this move. Perfect games can be very fluky and Galarraga's overall ERA was 4.49 with a measly 4.6 K/9. The BOB is a much more unfriendly place to pitch than Comerica Park. I don't expect Galarraga to do well there.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #8 Ehire Adrianza

#8 Ehire Adrianza, SS. BD: 8/21/1989. 6'0", 170 lbs. B-S, T-R.

A+: .256/.333/.348, 22 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 33 SB, 15 CS.

Much like Gary Brown and Francisco Peguero, Adrianza and Brandon Crawford make for an interesting prospect smackdown. I went back and forth on Crawford and Adrianza many times finally settling on Adrianza as the better prospect, by a nose. Crawford is closer to the majors, but is older and is running out of development time. I also think Adrianza has a more projectable body with plenty of room for another 15-20 lbs on his frame.

Adrianza is already a superb defensive shortstop. He went something like the last 6 weeks of the season without committing an error and has always had great range. The question is whether he will hit. He had a rough month of July in which he hit just .202 which dragged his average down. He came back to post a .260 in August finishing with a .314 over his last 10 games. He hasn't shown much power so far, but that's where I think his physical projectability will help out. I really like the plate discipline he's shown which should hold him in good stead as his power develops.

I would think the next stop is Richmond which will challenge his hitting skills even more. It may be 2-3 years before we see him in SF and a whole lot can happen between now and then, but I expect Ehire Adrianza to have a fine MLB career as a shortstop in one place or another.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #7 Chuckie Jones

#7 Charles "Chuckie" Jones, OF. BD: 7/28/1992. 6'3", 235 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Rookie AZL: .279/.360/.461, 7 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 6 SB, 2 CS in 165 AB.

Chuckie Jones was a relatively unknown high school player from Boonville(that's right, there actually is a Boonville), MO who couldn't afford to ride the showcase circuit. The Giants scouts knew who he was though and the Giants drafted him in the 7'th round last summer. He signed quickly and went to the Rookie Arizona League well before his 18'th birthday and turned in one of the more impressive performances I can recall for a high school position player draftee out of the box. He slumped a bit at the end of the season hitting just .202 over his last 10 games, but prior to that he hit for average, power, plate discipline and showed a bit of speed. He played CF to boot. In other words, he was the complete package.

Chuckie comes with a compelling story. In addition to growing up in a small town, he lost his mother at age 14. A good enough athlete to play QB on his HS football team, his passion is for baseball and he grew up idolizing Albert Pujols. He actually hoped to get drafted by the Cardinals and was told they were considering him in the 7'th round, but the Giants grabbed him just 1 pick earlier. In video interviews, he comes across as extremely mature for his age and willing to take advice from adults in his life.

He's a big kid, but in the videos I've seen does not look at all overweight. He's just a big boned kid who looks eerily similar to his idol Albert Pujols. At his size, I'm guessing he will eventually be a corner OF, but he's athletic enough to play CF for now and that's a real good sign. The Giants could send him to low A Augusta this season or they could keep him in instructional league and then send him to short season Salem-Keizer. Either way, he is a prospect I am very high on.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Jays Dump Vernon Wells' Contract; Manny Gets Chump Change

The Hot Stove had a flare up as the weekend approached, and what a flare up it was! In a surprising almost shocking move, the Blue Jays were able to rid themselves of a contract many considered to be one of the most untradable in baseball by sending Vernon Wells to the LA Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. News of the trade brought snorts, guffaws and outright derision of the Angels form all corners of the baseball blogosphere while Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulis was toasted as the latest greatest GM in the game. While I don't love the trade from the Angels viewpoint, I don't think it's nearly as bad as the pundits are making it out to be. Here's the breakdown:

From the Blue Jays perspective, the biggest factor in the trade, by far, is getting out from under Wells' contract in which he is owed $86 M over the next 4 years. Vernon Wells is not a terrible player, and he is coming off a pretty good season, but for a team like the Blue Jays who are trying to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees on a limited budget, it was imperative that they have more payroll flexibility going forward. It almost didn't matter who the Jays got in return, I'm sure they would have been happy to simply give the contract away for nothing. As it happened, the Angels had a couple of lesser contracts they wanted to dump so they sent Napoli and Rivera to the Jays. A lot of analysts are crowing about what a great value the Jays got in Napoli. I'm not so sure. Napoli and Rivera are both terrible fielders with no real positions. The Jays are already not a good defensive team and if Rivera and Napoli play in the field, they will be even worse. I don't expect either player to have a long term career with the Jays.

It's a little more complicated from the Angels perspective. The Angels were looking for an outfielder, mainly a left fielder, and had missed out on Carl Crawford. I think it's pretty clear now that the Angels problems with signing Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre were not so much the $$$$/season, but the number of years. The Angels also had a logjam of DH types and really had no use for either Napoli or Rivera.

A lot of fans think Napoli should have won the every day catcher job over a year ago, but Mike Scioscia obviously did not like Napoli's work behind the plate, possibly with good reason. Napoli's Catcher ERA(the ERA of Angels pitchers in games he caught) was consistently >5.00 for several years running while it was <4 for Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Catcher ERA is a notoriously controversial statistic fraught with all kinds of built in biases, but Napoli had amassed enough of a track record so there was probably something significant here, and more than a run difference in ERA is huge. Rumor has it that Napoli had trouble remembering pitch sequences in pitcher/catcher meetings much to the dismay of the coaching staff. In short, Napoli was not going to catch a lot of games for the Angels. They have Kendry Morales coming back at 1B and Bobby Abreu set to be the DH, so the Angels were going to have to pay Napoli $6 M to do a lot of sitting on the bench. Rivera's situation was even worse as he was coming off a down year and has always been a minus fielder. By sending Rivera and Napoli to the Jays, the Angels get back about $11 M of Wells' $23 M salary and they have another $45 M coming off the books next year.

Assuming he is healthy, a big assumption I know, Wells gives that Angels a pretty good leftfielder who can hit for power. It enables them to field a much better defensive team with possibly a more productive lineup. The worst part of getting Wells is the contract, but the Angels are a team that is not afraid to spend a lot of money. Well's contract won't be the albatross for them that it was for the Blue Jays.

I don't know what other options might have been open to the Angels. It's not a trade that makes them an automatic favorite to win the AL West, but it may well have been their best option if they wanted to remain competitive in the short term. I don't think it's as bad a trade for the Angels as it's being portrayed on many other sites.

Manny Ramirez signed a bottom-of-the-barrel 1 year/$2 M contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Oh how the mighty, or Manny, have fallen! Dude is coming off a 2 year/$45 M contract with the Dodgers and White Sox. The Rays also got another Scott Boras client in a package deal. Johnny Damon signed for about $4 M, a larger amount than what Manny got. The difference likely being that Damon can still play a shaky LF while Manny can't play any position at all. DH's just don't get big contracts these days! If Manny still brings a bat, and if he can stay healthy not having to play in the field, this move could pay off big time for the Rays. The losers in all this may be Desmond Jennings who was penciled into LF for the Rays, and all the fantasy baseball dynasty league owners who have him on their rosters.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #6 Dan Runzler

#6 Dan Runzler, LHP. BD: 3/30/1985. 6''4", 215 lbs. B-L, T-L.

MLB: 3-0, 3.03, 32 IP, 20 BB, 37 K.

I'm not sure it's appropriate to count Dan Runzler as a prospect, but he's pitched less than 50 innings at the MLB level and that qualifies him as a prospect by BA's criteria. Since he's slated to return to Fresno in 2011 as a starting pitcher, I decided to go ahead and count him. I think most of us have seen him pitch for the Giants so not much need for a scouting report here. I usually don't rank pitchers who profile as relievers highly, but when you have a guy with Runzler's stuff who has already pitched successfully at the MLB level, I think you have to rank them right up there, both on ceiling and proximity to the majors. Runzler's stuff gives him closer potential. On the other hand, he's big and strong enough to thrive as a starter if he can develop a repertoire. It looks like the Giants are going to give him that chance. He can always move back to reliever any time. His big problem has always been walks. His ability to get the strikeout somewhat mitigates the damage the walks do, but to take it to the next level and become a full-fledged MLB pitcher, he's going to have to cut them down to at least Jonathan Sanchez levels.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fantasy Focus: Ranking Jonathan Sanchez

As if Matt Cain wasn't enough, Jonathan Sanchez is another Giants pitcher who confounds sabermetric analysts and thus is creating a good deal of anxiety among fantasy baseball managers about where to rank/draft him for 2011. I will again pick on Jeffrey Gross of Hardball Times who ranked Sanchez #62 behind pitchers like James Shields, Scott Baker, Brian Matusz, Gio Gonzalez, Travis Wood and Marc Rzepczynski. #62 doesn't even get him in the starting rotation of a 10 team league, although if you are in a league with a big bench and can re-set your roster daily, you can run rotations that are much bigger than 5 men.

Now, Sanchez put up a line last year that was a whole lot better than the 62'nd best fantasy starter in baseball: 13-9, ERA= 3.07. 205 K's with a WHIP of 1.27. So why is Jeffrey Gross ranking him #62 and saying things like if you draft him at all, you better have a WHIP anchor? Well, Jonathan Sanchez has had a very interesting progression over the last 4 seasons:

ERA: 5.88, 5.01, 4.24, 3.07.

WHIP: 1.63, 1.45, 1.37, 1.23.

H/9: 9.87, 8.77, 7.44, 6.61.

K/9: 10.73, 8.94, 9.75, 9.54.

BB/9: 4.85, 4.27, 4.85, 4.47.

Note that Sanchez has dramatically reduced his ERA and WHIP almost exclusively by reducing his H/9. Since his K/9 and BB/9 and HR/9 have remained essentially constant, it is easy to see that his BABIP(Batting Average on Balls In Play) has also dropped dramatically. It is virtually gospel among sabermetricians that over a large sample size, BABIP varies little from .300 for any pitcher. By last season, Sanchez had gotten his down to a ridiculously low .265 which any good sabermetrician will tell you is likely due to luck and is unsustainable. So, what about Jonathan Sanchez? Is he a guy you should stay away completely in the draft, or someone you should be thinking about for your #3 starter? His line last year would indicate he is at least a #3 starter, but his peripheral stats suggest that he is in for a huge regression and will ruin your ERA/WHIP categories in fantasy ball. Well, as you might expect, I have some thoughts on the subject:

1. There are pitchers who seem to be able to maintain low BABIPs over a large sample size. Matt Cain is one who has done so for most of his MLB career. Most of these pitchers are flyball pitchers reflecting the fact that flyballs in play are more likely to turn into outs than are ground balls which may find their way between fielders at fluctuating rates. Sanchez may be one of these pitchers. he's not as extreme in his flyball tendencies as Cain with a GO/AO of about 1, but there is another factor to consider. His high K/9 may be a marker for an ability to induce weak contact on the part of batters, especially as he has gained experience in the league.

2. If Sanchez' H/9 had remained stable for 3 seasons then suddenly dropped to his remarkable low level last year, I would be the first to say it was likely a fluke and unsustainable. Practically any stat that takes a 1 year excursion is probably a fluke. There is no reason why H/9 would be any different and a lot of reasons why it wouldn't. The "problem" with Sanchez is that his H/9 did not just suddenly drop. It has been on a steady, dramatic downhill course for 4 full seasons now. I regard a trend over 4 seasons to be no different than maintaining a steady state over 4 full seasons. When you get a sample size that big, it's not luck!

3. People also point to Sanchez' LOB% as being unusually high and likely unsustainable. Well, first of all, a pitcher with a K/9 of 9.4 just might be able to dial it up a notch in a tight situation. Certainly he is more likely to be able to get a couple of K's to get out of a bases loaded 1 out jam a lot more than the average pitcher. Secondly, I have a theory about Giants pitchers in general which may explain some of the anomalies we see in their secondary stats, which brings us to point #4.

4. Despite most of their pitchers having high flyball rates, the Giants last year tied with 3 other teams for having the 3'rd lowest HR's allowed in baseball. You might be tempted to say that it's due to the park they pitch in, but the home/away splits are roughly equal. At the same time, they had the 3'rd worst BB/9 in all of baseball. I can't prove it but I believe, after watching a whole lot of Giants baseball, that the Giants have an organizational philosophy of being risk averse to allowing HR's. You know how a lot of us Giants fans have been frustrated over the years by watching pitchers with good stuff nibble and nibble and walk batters and allow way too many runners on base? Well, I have come to believe that a lot of that is by design. Now, if you or I were in Dave Righetti's shoes and a pitcher was nibbling away like Jonathan Sanchez often does, and Sanchez gives up a hit the walks a batter then goes 3-1 on the next batter, we'd probably go fuming out to the mound and say something like "just throw strikes, dammit!" I just have this feeling that Dave Righetti goes out there with a completely different message. I bet Dave Righetti goes out there and says something like, "now remember, you still have an open base. You don't have to give in to this guy. Make him hit your pitch. If he walks, you'll get the next guy." I think the Giants have an organizational philosophy, while not trying to walk batters, of thinking it's better to give up a walk to load the bases than to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and risk a 3 run HR. I think they trust their pitchers enough that they think they can be both careful with pitch location and still keep their walk rates at a manageable level. Most HR's are not lazy flyballs that happen to carry over the fence by luck. Most HR's are hit off "mistakes" and are crushed. They are no doubters! I believe the Giants have found a systematic way to limit their "mistake" pitches by preferring to give up a few more walks than groove a pitch to get a strike and risk having it leave the yard.

Jonathan Sanchez is an emotional guy. His major problems have been maintaining his composure on the mound and a lack of stamina. Both of those factors improved last season and should continue to improve as he gains experience and maturity. With his ridiculously good stuff, as manifested by his K/9, all he has to do is lower his walk rate just a bit and he can be one of the elite pitchers in baseball, but again, some of those walks may be helping him keep his HR/9 down thus contributing to his success. His volatility on the mound might make me hesitate to make draft him as my #3 starter in a fantasy league, but he has just as much chance of performing like a #1 starter next year as he does to have a major regression.

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #5 Francisco Peguero

#5 Francisco Peguero, OF. BD: 6/1/1988. 5'11", 185 lbs. B-R, T-R.

A+: .329/.358/.488, 19 2B, 16 3B, 10 HR, 40 SB, 22 CS. DWL: .265/.283/.342.

Francisco Peguero backed up a 2009 season in which he hit .353 at 2 levels with another fine performance in 2010. In the process, he had a major jump in his IsoP from 0.090 to 0.159 putting up a "quadruple double," double digits in doubles, triples, HR's and SB's. After a slow start in the Dominican Winter League, Peguero caught fire at the end raising his BA by about 15 points and hitting .371 over his last 10 games. Peguero is a wiry, athletic fellow who, despite his relatively short stature, still looks like he could fill out his frame a bit. He's a strong defensive OF with enough speed to play CF and a strong enough arm to play RF. He played mostly RF for San Jose. On the surface, he seems like a classic leadoff type hitter, but I think he will end up with enough power to hit farther down in the lineup where his lack of patience and the plate won't hurt so much.

Although I think Peguero is a fine prospect, there are some negatives, the most glaring being his total lack of patience at the plate. It's true, there is no reason to take walks if you can hit with a BA in the mid .300's, but unlike Gary Brown, Peguero has never adjusted his approach during cold spells. Hey, maybe his nickname should be Hacman II! The early move to RF is a bit troubling too. While he may have enough speed to play CF and enough arm to play RF, he also may be a "tweener" with not enough D for CF and not quite enough power for RF. His relatively high CS rate is a bit troubling too. He is either not being selective enough in his SB attempts or he just isn't as fast as he appears to be.

Right now, I have Gary Brown as the Giants CF of the future with Peguero the front runner for RF, but he will have plenty of competition for that position from inside and outside the organization.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #4 Gary Brown

#4 Gary Brown, OF. BD: 9/28/1988. 6'0", 170 lbs. B-R, T-R.

College(Cal State Fullerton): .438/.485/.695, 20 2B, 8 3B, 6 HR, 32 SB, 5 CS, 210 AB. Rookie AZL: .182/.333/.227, 2 SB. Short Season: .136/.259/.227.

Gary Brown was the Giants first round draft pick in 2010, #24 overall, out of Cal State Fullerton. Brown was having a tremendous season before breaking a hand near the end of the season. As you might expect from a Scott Boras client, he signed shortly before the signing deadline of mid-August and thus only got into a total of 12 professional games, too small a sample size to draw any conclusions at all. As for a scouting report, Brown is a smallish player with tremendous speed. Some scouts rate his speed an 80 on a scale of 80. His speed enables him to play ++ defense in CF due to his tremendous range. Although his arm isn't premium, he makes accurate throws and makes good decisions. On offense, he is a line drive/gap hitter with limited power potential. The striking thing about his junior season in college was the lack of walks. He actually had more HBP's(10) than BB's(9). Some analysts have pointed to this as a concern, especially since he projects to be a leadoff hitter at the MLB level.

OGC has pointed out that Brown drew some walks his freshman year at CS Fullerton when he hit just .292 and his walk rate dropped as his BA rose. Again, he drew some walks in his first professional experience as he struggled to make contact, so he does seem to be able to adjust his approach depending on the level of success he's having in hitting the ball. He also augmented his OBP by getting hit by a lot of pitches in college. Whether that is a projectable skill remains to be seen.

For some reason, the comp that keeps popping into my head is Dan Gladden. Someone suggested Reggie Willits of the Angels. If his college experience is any indication, he should be a better hitter than either Gladden or Willits. I figure that he is going to be a 2 WAR player on defense alone making him very valuable if he is able to hit any better than replacement level, not a tall order.

I debated long and hard between Brown and Peguero for #4. They are very similar players and I actually think Peguero has more power potential. What it came down to is I think Brown is the Giants CF of the future while Peguero will have to make it as a corner OF where he might not have quite enough power. I got to thinking that maybe I should have ranked Brown ahead of Thomas Neal because of the CF vs Corner OF thing. I expect Gary Brown to be the starting CF in San Jose in 2011.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #3 Thomas Neal

#3 Thomas Neal, OF. BD: 8/17/1987. 6'1", 225 lbs. B-R, T-R.

AA: .291/.359/.440 with 12 HR's, 11 SB.

Thomas Neal was one of the last "draft and follow" signings before the current Basic Agreement with the Players Association put a shortened deadline on signing drafted players. A graduate of Poway HS near San Diego, Neal was drafted in round 37 of the 2005 draft, but played a year of JC ball for Riverside JC and then signed just before the 2006 draft. What a lot of people don't realize is that Neal was highly touted as a hitting prospect before his "breakout" season for San Jose in 2009. His professional career was slowed at the beginning by a shoulder injury, but by 2008, he was able to play a whole season, mostly as a DH for Augusta and put up a fine line of .276/.359/.444 with 15 HR's. So yeah, his .337/.431/.579 line the next year in San Jose was a quantum leap ahead, but it's also not like he was never able to hit at all before. Even if the Giants AA affiliate played in the Texas League, it is likely Neal's numbers would have regressed from that lofty line, but Richmond and the Eastern League are a whole other story. There have been 1 or 2 success stories, but for the most part, the EL has been where Giants hitting prospects go to die. That's why I am not at all discouraged by what I think is a fine line for Thomas last year. He should move up to Fresno, a much more hitter friendly environment. I think it's quite possible he may put up a line very similar to his San Jose season. John Sickels, who has never been exactly enamored by Giants hitting prospects, thinks so too.

One thing you may not know about Thomas is that once his shoulder completely healed, he became quite adept at gunning down baserunners from LF and probably has a strong enough arm to play RF. He also nearly won the SB title in the 2009 Arizona Fall League. He won't win any SB titles in MLB, but he is far from slow. He has also built quite a following on his Twitter account and seems to be a very personable young man. The nickname Thomas the Tank Engine seems to have caught on a bit in the Twitter universe, but I still call him Thomas Neal the Real Deal!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #2 Zack Wheeler

#2 Zack Wheeler, RHP. BD: 5/30/1990. 6'3", 180 lbs. B-R, T-R.

Low A: 3-3, 3.99, 58.2 IP, 38 BB, 70 K's, GO/AO= 2.61.

2010 was Zack Wheeler's first professional experience after being drafted # 6 overall in 2009, hopefully the last of a 4 year run of top 10 draft picks for the Giants. Even if he ends up a complete bust, the Giants made the most of their opportunities to draft elite players with those high picks. Wheeler's first pro season was a bit of a mixed bag. The good: A very nice K/9 of 10.71 coupled with a fantastic GO/AO. My threshold for dominance in those two stats are 9 and 2 respectively, so we've got double dominance here! The Bad: A less than stellar BB/9 as well as missing about half the season with a torn fingernail. I'm not too worried about a high BB/9 in a young pitcher if they show dominance in other areas, and the fingernail should not be a lasting problem. Remember Matt Cain got shut down early in his first full pro season after suffering a stress reaction in his elbow.

I think Wheeler still probably has the highest ceiling in the organization. He's just a bit farther away from achieving it than Brandon Belt. I would expect him to start the season pitching for San Jose and can hardly wait to get a look at him in person. The Giants can afford to take their time developing him. If the early returns hold up, and he gets any semblance of command/control, he should eventually take his place in the line of impact players the Giants have drafted with their string of high first round picks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects- #1 Brandon Belt

#1 Brandon Belt, 1B/OF. BD: 4/20/1988. 6'5", 195 lbs. B-L, T-L.

A+: .383/.492/.628, 10 HR, 18 SB in 269 AB.

AA: .337/.413/.623, 9 HR, 2 SB in 175 AB.

AAA: .229/.393/.563, 4 HR, 2 SB in 48 AB.

AFL: .372/.427/.616, 8 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR in 86 AB.

You can't argue with his numbers. They are all there: Hitting, hitting for power, plate discipline, good speed for his size and position. If those numbers are for real, well, Brandon Belt is the real deal. Let the puns begin: Brandon Belt's 3 HR's in one game! Brandon Belts it deeeeeep!!! In his first season of professional baseball, Brandon Belt has gone from being an unheralded 5'th round draft choice who some people thought might have sleeper potential to being one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball, likely top 20-30 in BA's Top 100, if not top 10. I simply could not ignore the height of his ceiling as well as his proximity to the majors and thus made him my #1 Giants Prospect of 2011.

The accolades come from everywhere. No less of an authority than Will "The Thrill" Clark said that Brandon Belt's swing is even better than his own, and Clark's was legendary! One of his minor league managers compared his plate discipline to Barry Bonds saying if the pitch is 2" off the plate, he's not going to swing at it!

So, how did Brandon Belt go from being a "sleeper pick" in the 2009 draft to being one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball? He played his college ball at Texas, a baseball powerhouse, so there was nothing wrong with his level of competition. He put up lines of .319/.381/.496 with 6 HR's in 2008 and .323/.416/.523 with 8 HR's in 2009. Those are good numbers, but nothing special for a college hitter using metal bats. He had a reputation of hitting more for average and OBP than for power. Now, the Giants have long had a reputation for not being able to develop hitters, so it has to be surprising that they immediately had Brandon open up his stance and elevate his swing from level to slightly uppercut during the 2009 Fall Instructional League in Arizona. The results couldn't have been more dramatic. It should be noted that these changes are not unlike the ones Andres Torres made to his approach on his own before signing with the Giants. His results were pretty darn dramatic too!

The only hesitation here is the nagging feeling that maybe this is all too good to be true. Although Giants fans have seen a lot of good things happen lately, they also have a long history of having hopes dashed by touted prospects, especially of the hitting variety. Maybe this is all too much too fast? Maybe some scout will find the Kryptonite hole in his swing that he just can't close? You always have to have a bit of healthy skepticism for one year wonders.

The Giants have said that Brandon will get a chance to win a starting MLB job out of spring training. It will be either 1B or LF and Aubrey Huff will play the other position if Belt is successful. He won't be on the active roster as a reserve. If he fails to win a starting job, he will go to Fresno to get AB's and continue his development. If all this is real, and he wins the job in spring training, he just might make the Giants an offensive force to rival their vaunted pitching. Let the dreaming begin!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects

OK team, it's that time of year again to reveal DrB's 2011 Giants Top 50 Prospects. We've been doing this since about 2003 and a lot of people really seem to appreciate it. We'll post the list here along with Honorable Mentions and "Dominican Dandies" and then give a short scouting report on each one leading up to the start of the season. In researching the list, I am struck by how much younger, deeper and more athletic the Giants farm system is than just a few years ago. You will find that the Honorable Mention list is quite lengthy with quite a few names that you might think should be in the Top 50! One area of mild concern is the relative lack of strong pitching prospects in the upper minors. Luckily, the strength and relative youth of the Giants pitching at the MLB level gives them some time to correct this imbalance. As always, this list and the scouting reports to come are just one fan's opinion. As always, please don't get too hung up on the exact order. The most important part of the exercise is getting to know some of the players the Giants have in their farm system. On with the list!

1. Brandon Belt, 1B/OF.
2. Zack Wheeler, RHP.
3. Thomas Neal, OF.
4. Gary Brown, OF.
5. Francisco Peguero, OF
6. Dan Runzler, LHP.
7. Chuckie Jones, OF.
8. Ehire Adrianza, SS.
9. Brandon Crawford, SS.
10. Charlie Culberson, 2B.
11. Jarrett Parker, OF.
12. Conor Gillaspie, 3B.
13. Tommy Joseph, C.
14. Rafael Rodriguez, OF.
15. Nick Noonan, 2B.
16. Seth Rosin, RHP.
17. Mike Kickham, LHP.
18. Kendry Flores, RHP.
19. Heath Hembree, RHP.
20. Jose Casilla, RHP.
21. Ryan Verdugo, LHP.
22. Steve Edlefsen, RHP.
23. Johnny Monell, C.
24. Chris Dominguez, 3B.
25. Carlos Willoughby, 2B.
26. Jose Valdez, RHP.
27. Jorge Bucardo, RHP.
28. Jacob Dunnington, RHP.
29. Jake Dunning, RHP.
30. Hector Sanchez, C.
31. Carter Jurica, SS.
32. Dan Burkhart, C.
33. Reiner Roibal, RHP.
34. Matthew Graham, RHP.
35. Brandon Allen, RHP.
36. Roger Kieschnick, OF.
37. Clayton Tanner, LHP.
38. Craig Westcott, RHP.
39. Eric Surkamp, LHP.
40. Jason Stoffel, RHP.
41. Ryan Cavan, 2B.
42. Chris Lofton, OF.
43. Edwin Escobar, LHP.
44. Austin Fleet, RHP.
45. Wendell Fairley, OF.
46. Leonardo Fuentes, OF.
47. Marvin Barrios, RHP.
48. Juan Perez, OF.
49. Caleb Hougheson, 3B
50. Tyler Graham, OF.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Rohlinger IF, Brock Bond 2B, Jackson Williams C, Mike McBryde OF/RHP?, Darren Ford OF, Henry Sosa RHP, Waldis Joaquin RHP, Matt Yourkin LHP, David Mixon RHP, Wilmin Rodriguez LHP, David Quinowski LHP, Michael Main RHP, Drew Biery 3B, Michael Sandoval 1B, James Simmons OF, Justin Fitzgerald RHP, Kelvin Marte LHP, Ari Ronick LHP, Aaron King LHP, Nick Liles OF, Luke Anders 1B, Ydwin Villegas SS, Christopher Heston RHP, Brian Irving RHP, Jeremy Toole RHP, Andy Reichard RHP, Craig Whitaker RHP, Chris Gloor LHP, Chris Wilson RHP, Jason Jarvis RHP, Ryan Scoma OF, Devin Harris OF, Edward Concepcion RHP, Shawn Sanford RHP, Stephen Shakleford RHP, Carlton Salters OF, Joe Staley OF, Ryan Bean RHP, Jose De La Cruz OF, Sundrendy Windster 1B, Wes Hobson 2B.

"Dominican Dandies": Fernando Pujadas C, Christian Paulino 3B, Jesus Galindo OF, Shurendell Mujica SS, Luis Angeles RHP, Joan Gregorio RHP, Ariel Hernandez RHP.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fantasy Focus: Ranking Matt Cain

Jeffrey Gross, writing for, put out a ranking of the top 100 fantasy starting pitchers today. I have to say I have seldom been as disgusted and even downright angry at the arrogance of someone who claims to know something about baseball. I was specifically PO'd, not just at his ranking of Matt Cain at an absurdly low #38, but at the comments he made later, as well as his responses to my objections in the comments section.

Just for a frame of reference, here is a list of some of the pitchers he had ranked above Cainer: Mat Latos, Max Scherzer, Yovani Gallardo, Ricky Nolasco, Jeremy Hellickson, Shaun Marcum, Hiroki Kuroda, Colby Lewis, Brett Anderson, Madison Bumgarner(yes, Madison Bumgarner!), Ted Lilly, Jhoulys Chacin, Wandy Rodriguez, Josh Beckett, Phil Hughes, Daniel Hudson.

Now, those are some pretty good pitchers there, but ahead of Matt Cain? Here's what Gross had to say in his commentary: "Matt Cain ranked 38? Yeah, that's right. I hate Matt Cain. I wish I could justify slotting him even lower, but I can't." Really? He hates Matt Cain? Then he has no business writing for a reputable baseball website nor giving drafting advice to fantasy baseball players! I was so taken aback by that quote, I at first thought he was being sarcastic, but he wasn't! When I called him out on it, his response was pretty hostile and defensive. He trotted out something about a drop in swinging strike % and threw out a comp to Carlos Zambrano who he apparently hates too. I pointed out that Zambrano has had both physical and mental health problems the last 2 years and will still probably have a sub-4 ERA in 2011. I also pointed out that Cain's BB/9 has trended down for 3 seasons while his HR rates and LOB rates have been stable. Gross came back admitting that he has no explanation for Cainer's HR/FB% and reiterated that he really thinks Cain should be outside the top 40, then stated he won't be drafting Cain at all! I must have gotten under his skin because he ignored my last response and then wrote a sarcastic comment about Cain over on in an article about Matt Garza, "But hey! If Matt Cain can do it...."

It appears that Jeffrey Gross is basing most, if not all, of his rankings on a calculated stat, xFIP, that purports to give a more accurate measure of a pitcher's true performance than ERA. Now, don't get me wrong here, I am not dismissing xFIP as a stat. It is a very useful tool for evaluating most pitchers. The problem with xFIP is that there are a few pitchers, Cain, Zambrano and Matt Garza to name just 3, whose ERA consistently outperforms their xFIP. It is important to note that all 3 of these pitchers rely heavily on a high velocity, 4 -seam fastball that they throw up in the strike zone. Not surprisingly, all 3 get a lot more flyball outs than groundouts. xFIP relies heavily on the assumption that what happens to batted balls in play is largely due to luck. To a certain extent, that is true. However, non line drive flyballs in play are much more likely to be caught for outs than are groundballs, which often find their way between infielders for base hits. What about HR's? Don't all HR's have to start out as flyballs, and doesn't the % of flyballs that become HR's eventually regress to an average based almost exclusively on luck? Well now, that is not always true. In fact, most HR's are not lazy flyballs that carry over the fence at random. Most HR's are hit off mistake pitches such as hanging sliders and curveballs that are crushed. They are no-doubters! Pitchers with good fastballs that they throw up in the zone are actually much less likely to make "mistake" pitches with them than they are with their secondary stuff. Batters are able to make contact with them, but are not able to "get on top" of them and drive them. The result is a lot of weak flyballs, popups to the IF and high, shallow flyballs to the OF. They are easy outs, do not allow baserunners to advance and have no chance of carrying over the fence. I don't know if PitchFx can differentiate between a fastball and a hanging breaking pitch, but if it can, I bet it would confirm my observations from watching Matt Cain pitch a whole lot of games. Maybe OGC can help me out with this one.

Grant, over on wrote a piece today with basically the same complaint about Cainer's rankings by the xFIP fascists, but from a different angle. In the comments section of that post, someone made a very interesting point that on PitchFx, Matt Cain throws about 75% fastballs, a very high %, and gets a higher percentage of outs with that pitch than all but about 2 or 3 pitches in all of baseball! Bottom line, Cain has a darn good fastball and knows how to use it. He is not going to suddenly give up a bunch of HR's off the fastball!

Matt Cain is just entering the prime years of his career. He's never had any serious injury issues. His command of his fastball and other pitches is steadily improving. His peripheral stats have either improved or remained stable for several years now. He will have a much improved offense behind him in 2011. Even with a slight regression in some of his peripheral stats, he should be able to put up more wins, which are a category in most fantasy leagues, in 2011. He should be ranked in the #20-25 range in fantasy drafts.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Giants Notes

I"m currently putting the finishing touches on the 2011 Top 50 Prospect List which should be posted soon. The Hot Stove League is down to teams filling out their bullpens and a few scattered #6 starter options. Here's a few random Giants notes to ponder during the lull:

Baggs has a note about Eric Surkamps's hip injury on BA. It sounds pretty bad. It occured when he stumbled trying to field a ball off the mound just a day or two before he was to be promoted to AA. He suffered torn cartilage and labrum and underwent surgery to repair both during the season. He also underwent further arthroscopic surgery earlier this offseason. The note did say his fastball velocity was up to 90-91 MPH in San Jose. His college coaches had insisted he throw mainly curveballs so his fastball development was lagging. Hip injuries, much like shoulder injuries can be very tough to overcome. Let's hope for the best with Eric Surkamp!

More gushing about Brandon Belt by Chris Haft over on He includes a quote from none other than Will Clark saying Belt's swing is better than his own. Belt will be given a chance to win either the starting 1B or LF job in spring training with Aubrey Huff taking the other position. He won't make the team as a reserve.

There's an encouraging report on Pablo Sandoval via Rich Aurilia who apparently ran into Pablo down in Arizona land. Pablo told him he's lost 17 lbs and wants to lose more by the start of spring training, maybe up to a total of 35 lb wt loss. He's working out with former decathlonite Dan O'Brian and seems to be enthusiastic about the program. Pablo has reportedly never worked out before! In addition to his conditioning, Pablo has to solve his strike zone issues, but this all sounds very encouraging. Even a modest bounceback from Pablo would make the Giants a real juggernaut. If Brandon Belt is really ready, we could be talking about the dominant team in baseball here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Matt Garza to the Cubs

The great migration of pitching to the National League continued this weekend with the announcement that Matt Garza had been traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Chicago Cubs in an 8 player deal. There were several players included in the trade that appear to be inconsequential. The core of the trade was Garza going to the Cubs with RHP Chris Archer, SS Hak Ju Lee, C Robinson Chirinos and OF Brandon Guyer going to the Rays. The trade makes some semblance of sense for both sides, but is just quirky enough to make it interesting to analyze. Let's break it down:

Cubs: Matt Garza is a very good pitcher who is probably a bit underrated because he seems to have not lived up to his perceived immense talent. He is also a bit like Matt Cain, though not as good, in that his ERA has outperformed his FIP's for several years running which drives sabermetric analysts crazy. If you want to read an interesting analysis of this phenomenon and a nice compare/contrast on Garza and Cain, check out the ongoing discussion on Splashing Pumpkins. I'll just say here that both Garza and Cain are power pitchers with strong flyball tendencies and good, but not great, K rates. Something to ponder....

Anyway, I think Garza will do just fine in Chicago and strengthens the Cubs rotation significantly. They lose a top ranked pitching prospect plus a couple of guys who were blocked in the organization. The loss of Archer may hurt in the long run, but in the short run they are stronger with Garza who is not FA eligible until 2014. The question is whether the rest of the team is strong enough to support an enhanced rotation. The Cubs are in a pretty bad bind with an aging lineup that contains several very bad contracts so a rebuild/remake of the lineup is very difficult, if not impossible. It may well be 2014 or beyond before they are a really competitive team again.

From Tampa Bay's perspective, They were willing to give up Garza because Jeremy Hellickson is ready to step into the rotation. Now, Hellboy is a darn good prospect, but for him to equal Garza's contribution to the rotation is a tall order, especially out of the box. Besides, they could have kept Garza, who will still be a bargain even with an arbitration fueled pay raise, and replaced a lesser starter, like James Shields or Jeff Niemann with Hellickson.

Strangely enough, the one guy the Rays apparently had to have in the trade was the catcher, Chirinos. It seems the Rangers had been trying to get Chirinos from the Cubs just so they could include him in a package for Garza! Chirinos is a bit old, but only recently converted from shortstop, is a good defende and has hit well in AAA. The Rays apparently want to give him a chance to be their starting catcher in 2011.

Archer provides a nice replacement at the AAA level for Hellickson. Some analysts think his stuff is better suited to closing, so perhaps the Rays think he might be Soriano's replacement?

The Rays already have a couple of shorstop options including Reid Brignac, so Hak Ju Lee gets more time to develop in the minors.

Guyer is a potential 4'th OF.

Summary: Garza makes the Cubs better, but maybe not good enough to be serious contenders. The Rays may come out OK in future years, but the notion that the trade makes them immediately better is pretty far-fetched. The biggest story here may be the continued mass migration of pitching from the AL to the NL. Since pitching is about 70% of the game, is it possible the balance of power is shifting from the AL to the NL? How much of this sudden league wide interest in stockpiling pitching is due to teams trying to keep pace with the Giants?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In Memoriam: Christina Green

I'm sure all of you, like me, were shocked and horrified by the events that occurred in Tucson, Arizona yesterday. I had things I intended to do yesterday, but found myself glued to CNN for hours as the terrible news unfolded. Almost lost in the chaos was the news that a 9 year old girl was among the 6 people who died at the hands of the deranged gunman who attempted to assassinate Gabriella Giffords, United States Congressional Representative of that district in Tucson. Now, news has come out that the little girl was the daughter of John Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the granddaughter of Dallas Green, former manager of the Philadelphia Phillies who managed them to a World Series Championship in 1980.

There are a thousand different angles to look at this story from. Again, I am sure you are all as shocked, horrified and downright angry as I am about this incident. I have strong feelings about the political implications of this attack, but I'll leave those to other sites and other threads. If you wish to get into that, there's a couple of threads on the topic over on the Giants Message Board at

I want to focus on Christina Green and how this tragedy touches those of us who love the game of baseball and revere the people who play it, coach it and scout it at such a high level. By all accounts, Christina was not unlike thousands of other schoolgirls her age, but she was also special in her own way. She was born on September 11, 2001 and was later featured in an article about children born on that day. She was apparently a good student and was interested in in life. She expressed interest in being either a veterinarian or a politician. She had just been elected to her school council. Apparently a neighbor who was interested in politics noticed Christina's interest and suggested she go to the town hall meeting yesterday to meet congresswoman Giffords. How could anyone know the terrible outcome of that fateful suggestion?

We sometimes forget that the people who work in baseball are human too. They have families, hopes, dreams as well as tragedy and heartache. They have children and grandchildren who attend school, grow up and find their own place in the world. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief that has befallen Christina Green's family. To John Green, Dallas Green and their extended family I just want to say thank you for your contribution to the game I have come to love. May you somehow find comfort in the memory of Christina's short, beautiful life. It sounds like she accomplished more in her short time than many do in a full lifetime.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- "Dominican Dandies"

OK, finally! We come to the end of our 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospects Review with some of the kids who played in the DSL in 2009. a couple of very interesting names here:

Carlos Willoughby, 2B. Rookie AZL: .295/.372/.432, 23 SB, 4 CS in 176 AB's. Speedster with excellent on-base skills and just enough power to possibly sustain it at higher levels. Not sure why he has moved so slowly in the Giants system though. 21 is kinda old for an international prospect at this level.

Jose De La Cruz, OF. Rookie AZL: .236/.281/.315. Started out good with a .377 BA in July, but collapsed in August hitting just .130. Nice size for an OF at 6'3", 190 lbs. At age 19 has some time to figure it out. Might get another look in Arizona in 2011.

Kendry Flores, RHP. Rookie AZL: 5-4, 3.60, 55 IP, 13 BB, 56 K's, GO/AO= 1.27. Flores didn't turn 19 until after the season. Nice combination of K's and control from a kid so young. He has a slight groundball tendency to boot. Take out his first 3 appearances and he was 5-2 with an ERA of 1.47. Will rank fairly high on my 2011 list.

Jesus Galindo, OF. DSL: .246/.385/.281, 43 SB, 7 CS in 167 AB's. Purely a slap and dash guy, apparently with great speed. Seemed to catch fire late with .308 BA over his last 10 games, but turned 20 late in the season.

Ariel Hernandez, RHP. DSL: 2-0, 2.01, 31.1 IP, 33 BB, 30 K's, GO/AO=1.48. Repeat of the DSL, but at age 18 is still young. Showed good control as a 17 yo in 2009. Obviously struggled to find the plate in 2010. Nice size at 6'3", 180 lbs.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Beltre to the Rangers

Adrian Beltre finally got the contract he wanted from the Texas Rangers who apparently had money burning a hole in their corporate pockets and felt compelled to give it to somebody. Of course, Michael Young's pathetic performance on defense at 3B during the WS juxtaposed with the stellar play of Juan Uribe at the same position for the Giants might have had something to do with their thinking. The deal is for 5 years/$80 M with a $16 M vesting option for year 6. The Rangers have said they will keep Michael Young. It's unclear where he will play with Elvis Andrus at SS and Ian Kinsler at 2B. Perhaps Young will be the DH?

Beltre has been criticized for only producing big in his contract years, but he has been a reliable producer of 25+ HR's per season even in Seattle which is notoriously tough on RH hitters. Even in his worst season when he was injured much of the year and hit for just a .683 OPS, he was a 2.5 WAR player because of his stellar defense at 3B. Even if you figure he will regress to his average after his "contract year" in 2010, the Rangers paid market value for him on a yearly basis, maybe even slightly under market. With 5 years of guaranteed money, he stands a decent chance of producing his 3-4 WAR/yr deep into the contract. If deteriorates late in the contract, then the last year probably won't vest.

I think Beltre will help the Rangers. I'm not so sure the Giants win the WS if he had been playing 3B instead of Michael "The Statue" Young. The Rangers big challenge will be to keep their pitching productive after losing out on retaining Cliff Lee.

The big losers in this are the Angels who reportedly offered just $3 M less in guaranteed money. They are now left trying to explain to their fans how they lost out on the two players who could have helped them the most after proclaiming their willingness to spend at the start of the offseason. The Angels might get lucky in the bargain bin, but that's a big comedown for a team in one of the largest markets in the country and one that has not been historically shy about spending money.

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- Honorable Mentions

There were several honorable mentions who had interesting seasons in 2010, though none were breakouts. I'll just go through their stat lines and make a brief comment on each one:

David Quinowski, LHP. A+: 3-2, 2.32, 42.2 IP, 13 BB, 51 K's. AA: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 5 BB, 14 K's. Small LHP who missed a year with TJ. Doesn't have top notch stuff, but has always put up good numbers. We should get a chance to see what he can do at higher levels in 2011.

Dan Griffin, RHP. Released. Had a high ERA with pretty good K numbers for AA in 2009. Released at the end of spring training, 2010. He's pitching in indy ball now.

Chris Gloor, LHP. Low A: 4-2, 2.65, 68 IP, 27 BB, 73 K's. Big LHP drafted out of a small program in 2009. Nice numbers pitching long relief for Augusta. A bit old for level at age 23.

Jeremy Toole, RHP. Low A: 6-5, 3.87, 97.2 IP, 37 BB, 75 K's. Big RHP with a big fastball. Mixed results in Augusta mostly as a starter.

Craig Westcott, RHP. A+: 6-0, 1.83, 68.2 IP, 32 BB, 53 K's, GO/AO= 1.52. AA: 3-3, 5.13, 66.2 IP, 28 BB, 48 K's, GO/AO= 1.35. Another Big RHP out of a small program. Great first half for San Jose but one of many Giants pitching prospects who failed to carry success to the next level in 2010. Should get another look in Richmond in 2011.

Leonardo Ochoa, 3B. DNP. Put up some intereting numbers in rookie ball in 2009. He's currently listed on the DL from the San Jose roster.

Sundrendy Windster, OF/1B. Rookie AZL: .311/.416/.594 with 5 HR in 106 AB. A great looking line, but at age 21 he's a bit old for rookie ball and he played mostly 1B which does not bode well for the future either.

Julio Izturis, 2B. Short Season: .281/.321/.314 with 7 SB's. Walked off the island, but didn't walk much last season. Doesn't seem to hit well enough for someone who's already moved off SS. Speed seems to have regressed too.

Cameron Lamb, RHP. Short Season: 0-1, 9.58, 10.1 IP, 6 BB, 8 K's. Australian Baseball League: 2-0, 3.86, 16.1 IP, 11 BB, 13 K's. Not a good season for Cam Lamb. Seems like yesterday he was signed as a 17 year old out of Australia. He'll turn 22 in May.

Jason Jarvis, RHP. Low A: 0-1, 3.07, 14.2 IP, 2 BB, 13 K's, GO/AO= 2.33. Last appearance was May 9. Went on the DL. I couldn't find information on the nature of the injury.

Kaohi Downing, RHP. Short Season: 2-2, 1.47, 43 IP, 22 BB, 34 K's. Downing reportedly has a low-mid 90's FB, but will turn 25 in May. Has a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Audy Santana, RHP. DNP. I'm guessing he was released. Can't find him listed anywhere in

Hot Stove Update: Rent to the Reds

The Cincinnati Reds finally signed the long-rumored deal with Edgar Renteria. It was for 1 year at $2.1 M with incentives worth another $900 K. Rent seems to think he's going to get a chance to start for the Reds over youngster Paul Janish. With Dusty Baker making the call, who's to say he's wrong? Given that his body seems to be falling apart before our eyes, Rent cannot be counted on as a starting shortstop any more. I would have been fine with him as a backup for the Giants. In fact, he was probably at the top of my list for that role. $2.1 M+ is a lot to pay for a backup anything. It's just for 1 season, $2 M seems like a drop in the bucket in a $120 M payroll, but it's not my team and I can certainly see why the Giants said no.

Rent didn't have many great moments as a Giant, but the ones he had sure stick out in the mind. The visual memory that seems to be enduring for me from the 2010 World Series is of Rent taking Cliff Lee deep in Game 5 and knowing right then that the Series was won, for all practical purposes. For that moment alone, Rent will be remembered as a good Giant. I'll wish him success in Cincy, but hope the Giants don't face them in the playoffs. I know it's popular among Sabermetric enthusiasts to say there is no such thing as clutch. Well, Rent was clutch!

I've already covered the Giants reserve shortstop options in a previous Hot Stove Update: What's Left? I agree with Splashing Pumpkins. The Giants have enough internal options that Sabes can afford to wait this one out and let the market come to him.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #49 Jose Valdez #50 Wilber Bucardo

Jose Valdez, RHP. Low A: 4-3, 3.30, 60.0 IP, 37 BB, 68 K's, GO/AO= 1.61.

I picked out Jose Valdez as a sleeper/breakout candidate for 2010. He didn't quite do that, but he put together a fine season that kept getting stronger it went along. Jose has been in the Giants system for awhile, but lost the better part of 2 seasons to Tommy John surgery. 2010 was his first full season back. At 6'7", 250 lbs, he's a huge physical presence on the mound. If you want to be amazed, go to Google Images and enter his name. Not sure what all he throws now, but before TJ, he was reported to have a mid-high 90's fastball with sink and run. I'll double down on last year's bet and say 2011 could be a breakout year in which he rockets up several levels, a la Dan Runzler. On the other hand, I'm reserving some hope that the Giants give him another chance to be a starter. In any event, he should start the season in San Jose and I'm dying to get a chance to see him pitch.

#50 Wilber Bucardo, RHP. DNP.

Jorge's older bro. Did not appear at all in 2010. I presume he was out with an injury, maybe TJ?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #48 Jorge Bucardo

#48 Jorge Bucardo, RHP. Low A: 9-4, 2.21, 114 IP, 31 BB, 95 K's, GO/AO=2.17. A+: 2-2, 4.42, 38.2 IP, 19 BB, 26 K, GO/AO= 1.75.

OK, I admit that #48 was way too low to rank Jorge Bucardo in last year's prospect list. I'm still not sure where I should have ranked him, but #48 was too low. Bucardo had a fine season, mostly at Augusta where as a 20 yo, he was one of the better pitchers in the league and age appropriate for low A ball. He wasn't quite the same after a late season promotion to San Jose, but he may have been getting fatigued by that time. I'm still not all that excited about Bucardo for some reason. Just because a player is young for his league doesn't automatically make him a high-ceiling player. Bucardo is an extreme groundball pitcher with unexceptional K rates. My concern is what happens as he gets to higher levels and faces batters who can elevate those pitches better. I'm just skeptical that he projects well in situations where his K rate is bound to be lower as well as his groundball rate. Maybe I'm just reacting to those who I think are irrationally exuberant about his record in the lower minors, but I continue to think there is a high probability of his career stalling out at a higher level.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #45 Evan Crawford #46 Drew Biery #47 Ryan Cavan

#45 Evan Crawford, OF. Low A(Giants): .255/.319/.366, 12 3B, 24 SB. A+(Cubs): .278/.286/.370 in 54 AB's.

I had picked Evan Crawford out as a sleeper/breakout candidate. I loved the way he came on strong for Salem-Keizer late in 2009. He had some very good games for Augusta, but was inconsistent and was traded late in the year for Mike Fontenot. I still like Crawford and think he could turn into a good player for the Cubbies. He would be clearly behind several other Giants CF prospects in 2010 and his place in the pecking order has been replaced by Chris Lofton. Mike Fontenot contributed to the Giants run to the WS. I'd make that trade again any day.

#46 Drew Biery, 3B. A+: .249/.322/.396 with 14 HR's

Drew Biery hit the ball so well in 2009 for Salem-Keizer, he drew the nickname Biery Bonds from his teammates. Moved up to San Jose in 2010, he never quite got completely untracked and slumped in the second half of the season. Will probably move up to AA just by default with Conor Gillaspie and Chris Dominguez slotting into Fresno and San Jose respectively, but Biery would seem to be well behind those two on the Giants 3B prospect depth chart.

#47 Ryan Cavan, 2B. Low A: .283/.352/.451 with 17 HR's.

Cavan was drafted as a SS and played there in Salem-Keizer in 2009. He showed promising power but was defensively challenged and moved over to 2B in Augusta in 2010. He again showed promising power and came on particularly strong in the second half with a .311/.380/.525 line with 14 of his 17 HR's. He's a college draftee with a long way to go, but those are impressive numbers for Augusta. He should be in line for the 2B job in San Jose in 2011 and will be interesting to watch. He could be a sleeper in the system.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #42 Andy Reichard #43 Chris Wilson #44 Ryan Verdugo

#42 Andy Reichard, RHP. A+: 2-1, 6.57, 12.1 IP, 9 BB, 8 K's. Low A: 6-1, 3.39, 95.2 IP, 22 BB, 92 K's.

You look at the line from Augusta and it's not half bad. The only problem is it occurred after a demotion from San Jose at age 25. Rechard is one of those big RHP's from small programs that the Giants like to collect down in the draft. He's always tended to be a slow starter, so it's hard to tell if the Cal League was too advanced for him or if he was just off to a slow start. We'll see if he gets another chance next year.

#43 Chris Wilson, RHP. Rookie AZL: 0-0, 1.42, 6.1 IP, 0 BB, 10 K's, 1 Save. Low A: 0-2, 2.76, 16.1 IP, 6 BB, 18 K's, 4 Saves.

Wilson was drafted out of JC ball in 2008. He has been used exclusively as a closer in the organization from day 1, actually not really a good sign for his future. He has put up excellent K and BB numbers in the process. He got a late start on the 2010 season presumably rehabbing some sort of injury. I would expect to see him in the bullpen in San Jose in 2011.

#44 Ryan Verdugo, LHP. Low A: 4-1, 2.25, 32 IP, 14 BB, 50 K's. A+: 4-0, 30.2 IP, 19 BB, 44 K's. AFL: 4-1, 22 IP, 16 BB, 26 K's.

Verdugo is a guy who moved himself way up the Giants prospect ladder in 2010. He pitched out of the bullpens in Augusta and then San Jose putting up great K numbers. He then went to the AFL where he started 7 games, albeit none for longer than 4 innings. Still, the indication is that he will be a starter in 2011, possibly as high as AA level. I saw him pitch a couple of times for San Jose. He's a medium sized LHP with good velocity up to 92 MPH and a nice sharp breaking ball and average changeup. 2011 will be a critical year for him to see if he can take it to the next level.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #41 Aaron King

#41 Aaron King, LHP. A+: 1-2, 7.57, 27.1 IP, 16 BB, 30 K's, GO/AO= 0.34. Short Season: 0-0, 20.2 IP, 29 BB, 31 K's, GO/AO= 0.23.

Aaron King is a big, hard throwing LHP who had a pretty good season in 2009 at Augusta, albeit the significant control issues. He wasn't ready for the promotion to San Jose and got knocked around pretty good in 7 starts there. He landed in Salem-Keizer working out of the bullpen. He got better results, but the control issues just got worse. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more extreme flyball tendency which may have had something to do with the 5 dingers he gave up in SJ. He's been in the organization awhile, but was drafted out of JC ball and will still be just 22 next season. He has some time to figure things out, but clearly still has a long ways to go. Maybe he needs to spend more time with Steve Kline in Augusta who helped Dan Runzler get a leash on the ol' heater?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #40 Charlie Culberson

#40 Charlie Culberson, 2B. A+: .290/.340/.457 with 16 HR, 25 SB, 7 CS. AFL: .366/.394/.591

Behind the stunning season Brandon Belt put together, perhaps no Giants prospect improved their stock in 2010 more than Charlie Culberson. He was coming off 2 consecutive disappointing seasons in Augusta where he played mostly shortstop. The Giants must have seen something because they promoted him to San Jose and installed him as the starting 2B from day 1. Charlie responded with a fine offensive campaign and was better defensively at 2B. He kept the momentum going by tearing up the Arizona Fall League. In the process, he likely moved ahead of Nick Noonan on the Giants 2B prospect depth chart. I saw Charlie play in several games this past season. He is a bit on the lanky side for a 2B, but looks like he still has room to fill out his frame which could lead to even more power in the future. He'll probably never be a great fielder, but in the best-case scenario, I could see him being a late blooming power hitting 2B similar to Jeff Kent. AA would be the logical next stop for him, but I won't be shocked if the Giants jump him to Fresno and leave Noonan in Richmond for another season.

Hot Stove Update: What's Left?

I used to love to play armchair GM in the offseason and think about signings and trades I would make as GM of the Giants. Over the years, I've discovered armchair GM'ing is mostly a futile exercise and ultimately frustrating. Whattheheck though? The Hot Stove has died down to mere embers and we need something to break up the monotony of reviewing last year's top prospects. recently identified backup shortstop and 6'th starter as the two items of unfinished business for the Giants. Most of discussion has centered around the mini-drama of Edgar Renteria and his characterization of the Giants offer of $1 million for 1 year as "insulting." Now, Edgar Renteria has done a lot of good things in his career, not the least of which was hitting the HR that won the World Series for the Giants, so I don't really blame him for feeling like he deserves some respect. On the other hand, Edgar is clearly nearing the end of his illustrious career and well, baseball is a business. Until Edgar hit that HR, the $18 million he got from the Giants over the last 2 seasons insulted the sensibilities of a lot of fans. One could easily make a case for both sides owing the other something here.

Things had kind of died down on the Edgar Renteria front until this last week when it was reported the Reds had made an offer. I don't know the dollar amount, but Edgar responded by announcing he intends to play 2 more seasons, the strong implication being that the Reds had offered 1 year and Edgar is looking for a 2 year offer. Now, I wouldn't be at all against the Giants sweetening their offer to $2 M as an appreciation for Edgar's WS heroics, but 2 years for a guy who's spent almost as much time on the DL as playing the last 2 years is not something the Giants are going to do, nor should they.

So, what other options might the Giants have if Edgar gets something more to his liking from another team? There isn't a whole lot out there, but the cupboard isn't completely bare either:

Orlando Cabrera- John Shea of recently commented that the Giants have kicked the tires on OCab. Now, I'd be pretty disappointed if OCab was the starting shortstop next year, although he'd probably provide better D than Miggy T. As a backup option though, I'd definitely be down with it.

Nick Punto- The Giants have recently gone to extremes in roster flexibillity and Punto would fit right in here as he is a jack of all trades. He also plays plus D at shortstop. He's not going to give you much in the way of offense, but he would likely be better at the plate than Emmanuel Burriss.

Bobby Crosby- Crosby is a guy who could probably be picked up on the cheap. He's been a negative of D the last 2 seasons and he'll never hit for more than about .230, but he will hit an occasional HR. Who knows, maybe he could be a Juan Uribe type reclamation project?

Augie Ojeda- another versatile guy who will give you a slight plus on D. He's good at drawing walks, but doesn't give you anything else at the plate.

Cristian Guzman- This one seems like the least likely option, so he's probably who Sabes will end up signing and it will probably work out pretty well. Guzman is only 33 years old, I thought he was in his late 30's. He has been essentially a replacement player for the last two seasons, but sometimes these guys have an "indian summer" in the autumn of their careers.

The Giants could go with Fontenot as the only backup MI. He is probably adequate as an occasional fill-in with the hope that Brandon Crawford shows enough by mid-season if a shortstop replacement is needed for an extended period. That plan would not leave the Giants with much teeth in their threat to demote Pablo if he comes to camp out of shape. Perhaps DeRosa could play 3B in that case leaving Tejada at shortstop? This is where I always start to get a headache with these analyses! In any event, it seems likely that the Giants will try to sign another player whose main duty would be backup shortstop.

Signing another infielder would leave the Giants with a major roster crunch, probably a nice problem to have, but one the Giants may have difficulty resolving the way they would want. The Giants already have 25 players who are "locks" to make the 25 man roster to start the season, and that's if Brandon Belt starts the year in the minors and they only carry 11 pitchers:

8 position starters- C Buster Posey(1B), 1B Aubrey Huff(LF), 2B Freddy Sanchez, 3B Pablo Sandoval(1B), SS Miggy T(3B), LF Pat Burrell, CF Andres Torres(RF, LF), RF Cody Ross(CF, LF). 5 SP- Timmy, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, MadBum, Barry Zito. 1 Closer- Brian Wilson. 5 Relievers- Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez. 6 Bench- Eli Whiteside(C), Mike Fontenot(2B, SS, 3B), Travis Ishikawa(1B), Nate Schierholtz(RF, LF, CF), Aaron Rowand(CF), Mark DeRosa(LF, 3B, 2B, 1B, SS?).

Questions: 1. Will Pablo be the starter at 3B? 2. Will DeRosa's surgery hold this time and allow him to play? 3. Will Freddy Sanchez start the season on the DL after yet another shoulder surgery?

Assuming everybody is healthy and ready to go, adding another shortstop to the mix would mean at least 1 and likely 2 players who are current "locks" would need to go. If Belt has a huge spring training and forces his way onto the team, that number would increase to 3.

Who's on the bubble?

I think just about everybody, including the Giants, would like to see Aaron Rowand somewhere else next year. Sabes has certainly gone about his roster building this offseason as though Rowand isn't in his plans at all. The problem is how do you make that happen? I believe $24 M would be the biggest contract the Giants have ever swallowed, but maybe it will come to that? How much relief could they get in a trade? $3 M/season or $6 M total would seem to be the absolute upper limit they could hope for. Then, you have to find a team that needs an aging CF who can't hit any more. Good luck with that!

The Giants have several players to back up first base. I love Travis Ishikawa's defense and his pinch hitting, but can they afford to keep a bench player who only plays 1B? He would seem to be #2 on the bubble after Aaron Rowand.

Nate Schierholtz- absolutely love his D in RF, but if Belt forces his way onto the team and Huff moves to LF, Nate's fate would probably be sealed even if Rowand and Travis are already gone.

Guillermo Mota was signed to a minor league deal and I have a hard time seeing the Giants going with just 11 pitchers for very long into the season.

As for 6'th starter, the options are still too numerous for any type of analysis. Sabes will probably make 1 or 2 minor league deals near the start of spring training. I actually wouldn't mind Wellemeyer as long as it was strictly a minor league deal and he started the season in Fresno.

How do you see the roster crunch shaking out?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Down on the Farm: 2010 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review- #39 Wendell Fairley

#39 Wendell Fairley, OF. A+: .292/.362/.343 with 1 HR.

Wendell Fairley has been a frustrating player for Giants prospect watchers. He was one of the 5 high school players drafted in the first and supplemental rounds of the 2007 draft. He's a "tools" player and it was widely acknowledged at the time that he was very raw and would take some time to develop. He was also 19 at the time, so a year older than most HS draftees. Add in a slow start due to injuries and it's no surprise that he's still struggling. Moved up to San Jose after hitting just .243 with no power in Augusta, Fairley did improve on his BA and maintained a decent batting eye at the plate. He still showed no power until the very end of the season. He finally hit a HR in the last weekend. I saw him hit another in the Cal League playoffs in Rancho Cucamonga. It was a line shot that he pulled smartly over the RF wall. He did show a small amount of progress over the season: Pre All-Star- .272/.353/.293. Post All-Star- .309/.370/.386. I saw him play about mid-season in Lake Elsinore and he looked very tentative at the plate with weak, defensive swings. Later on, he looked much more confident and was swinging the bat with some authority, including the HR swing in the playoffs. Fairley may well be one of those "tools" players who never puts it together. On the other hand, I think it would be a mistake to totally give up on him yet. These guys tend to have sudden breakouts just when you are ready to give up on them. Look at Charlie Culberson's career trajectory.